Regardless of where you live in the United States, educating our children is an issue that is probably a part of the daily news cycle. Whether it's a new state or national learning standards, such as the Common Core State Standards, or reforms to teacher preparation and evaluations, or the condition of our schools and technological structure, education is undergoing an immense change.
To ensure that our children receive the best education we have to offer, we as parents have some obligations to our kids and to educators.
Let me start by saying that I am an educator and a parent. I work with students every day and then come home and deal with the same issues and concerns of all parents who have school-age children. I've used my parenting experience to help me become a better teacher. I'm now asking parents to return the favor and consider the teacher perspective to help all of us become better parents.
Here are three points to consider:
1. Become Educated About Education
First, we all most do everything we can to become knowledgeable about the decisions that are being made about how we educate our kids. This requires all of us to understand the real issues and to be critical consumers of the information presented on all sides. There are a vast array of opinions about what should and should not be done in schools and understanding the basic principles of all these positions will help all of us move forward. Seeking a variety of viewpoints will not only educate you about what the conversations are in Education, but more importantly, you will show yourself as a critical consumer, an active participant, and life-long learner. These attributes are essential to ensuring a successful life for our kids. So, not only are you able to make more informed decisions about your child's education, but you also make yourself a role model for your kids. What parent wouldn't like for our kids to see us in that light?
2. Forget Your Student Experience
Think about your school experience. Was it good? Difficult? Pleasurable? Good at math? Awful at history? Your answer to these questions greatly determines how you view education, and even more urgently, how your children perceive it as well.
The interesting dilemma regarding education is that we have all experienced it. We were all students and have had a set of experiences that have shaped our schema about teaching and learning. This fact could be one of the greatest barriers to innovation in education. This paradox of "we have all experienced it, but none of us really know it" is difficult for each of us as parents to set aside.
As teachers, principals, schools and districts attempt to remake how we educate students, I encourage you to resist the temptation to pass your experiences onto your child. Allow for better and new experiences to enter into our classrooms and schools. Would you ask for the same medicines and procedures from the doctor that were done to your parents? Your grandparents?
3. Work With Your Teaching Professionals
The science of educating our young people has led to many innovations. New
technologies have allowed for more diverse experiences. I'm not suggesting parents should not question and be advocates for their children, but what I am suggesting is that the course of action that will yield the best results is to work hand-in-hand with the professionals.
Teacher, principals, school support staff, interventionists, and on and on, work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for every student. The relationship that exists between education professionals and parents can sometimes be counterproductive to the positive outcomes we all seek for our students. But, when parents understand the complexities of teaching and learning, set aside the paradigm of our own student experience, we can attempt to work together as a community, a village, to educate the children in our schools. It's through cooperation, instead of hostility that will allow for more students to access the education they deserve to reach the future that they all desire.
Are there fads and trends in education? Sure. Do certain methods and practices work better for particular students? Of course. How we navigate through the maze of teaching and learning will shape the future. By adopting some of the habits of mind I've referred to, maybe we can all contribute to making a better tomorrow.
What's most important to keep in mind, is that as a parent and teacher I want the same thing. As a parent, I want my own children to have happy, productive lives. I want to protect them from the dangers of the world. I want them to be better than I am.
As a teacher, I want the same exact thing for my students. And as Jerry Maguire so eloquently stated, "Help me, help you!"